Our First Annual Whisky and Bourbon/Rye Gift List

This is TD’s First Annual Whisky Gift List for all of you out there that have been good boys and girls all year. It’s an easy way to answer the questions: “What do you want for Christmas?” and “What should you give to whisky lovers on your gift list?”

We  have a scotch and a bourbon/rye list for First Rounders, Advanced Palate, and Connoisseurs, all in a variety of price ranges. I’ve tried to stay away from some of the obvious ones, but just could not resist including some of my old favorites along the way. Here is a good range of styles and regional tastes, providing a gift guide whilst having a bit of fun on the way.

First Rounders $50 – $100

Highland Park 12 Year Old 43% from $51.99. I could not resist including this incredible whisky. It is so consistently good with a touch of peatiness that is not overpowering. The peat used for Highland Park is sourced from the distilleries home on the island of Orkney and is derived from ancient heather plants. It is much more approachable than the high iodine peat of Islay. The Nose: delicate floral peat, nutty cereal, light honey. The Palate:lightly salted caramel, rich citrus a sweet orange. The Finish: warm spices and smoky heather.

Glen Garioch 12 Year Old 48% from $64.99. It is pronounced “glen-geery.” It is relatively unknown, and revered by enthusiasts. It is from the highlands most easterly distillery in the heart of Scotland’s grain engine—the “garioch”.The Nose: rich cereal, barley and deep orange. The Palate: fruit poached pears, caramel and a touch of sherry. The Finish: a touch of tea, orange peel and a dash of brine.

Springbank 10 Year Old 46% from $57.99. No buyers guide can be complete if it fails to include something from the legendary folks from Campbeltown. This 10 year old is the perfect introduction to the only distillery that still does 100 percent of its own floor malting.  The Nose: spicy feint hint of chili, salted vanilla cookies. The Palate:barrel spices, sweet peat touch of coconut and deep vanilla. The Finish: malty, crisp and dry sea salt aspect.

Advanced Palate  $100 – $ 250

Glen Farclas Family Cask 2001 60% from $100.00. This is an 11 year old single barrel cask strength beauty. The Nose: walnut shell, mustard seed, caramel fresh sugar cane. The Palate: rich dried vine fruits and spicy caramels.The Finish: is full and robust hints of sherry and barrel char.

Bowmore 18 Year Old 43% from $120.00. An amazing 18 year old scotch from the first recorded distillery on Islay, pronounced “eye-la,” founded over two hundred years ago in 1779. This is a wonderful expression of all that is great about a peated single malt and a great starting point for those of you less comfortable with peaty single malts.The Nose: cigar box, soft tobacco smokiness and hints of coffee. The Palate: chocolate, cocoa butter and salted caramel. The Finish: luscious slightly sweet lightly seaweed.

Dun Bheagan Caol Ila 22 Year Old 56% from $250.00. This is a single cask of Caol Ila which is a rare find nowadays as the distillery, which is running at full capacity, barely keeps up with the blending requirement demand of Johnnie Walker Black! The Nose: salted mangos, bacon smoke, earthy lavender. The Palate: raisins and honey underlined with an awesome dash of chimney ash. The Finish: a long smooth smoky, salty tropical fruits and absolute delight even at cask strength.

Connoisseurs $250 +

Highland Park Loki 15 Year Old 49% from $275. The Orkney Isles roots and heritage have long been associated with the Nordic countries due to its most northerly location. An annual release the “Valhalla” series from Highland Park celebrates this heritage and creates a whiskey with a character representative of a chosen Norse God. This year’s release being the Loki, the son of Farbauti and Laufey, who is known for being a mischievous shape shifter! Here then we have an expression of Highland Park offering distinct jumps in character and experience across both the nose and palate. The Nose: citrus orange to lemon with a touch of honey. The Palate: cardamom spice to gingerbread. The Finish: bold and rich liquorice and smoke!

Dun Bheagan Inchgower 31 Year Old Single Barrel 53% from $475.00. I have written about this incredible whisky on these pages. I could not leave it out of this list because if there is ever a time for a special treat it’s holiday time and this will certainly be that. The Nose: watermelon, sweet candied red fruit (jolly rancher) and a delicate saline note. The Palate: full of fruit salad and silky creamy notes, toffee and a touch of condensed milk. The Finish:a delicate hint of peppery spice.

The Balvenie 30 Year Old 47% from $899.99. Unfortunately I have not had the pleasure of trying this as yet but feel it is important to get it out there as there are many fans of all that Balvenie produce. This whisky is created by marrying up whiskies aged in both in bourbon barrels and European oak sherry casks. The following notes are from The Balvenie website. The Nose: silky smooth and honeyed, mellow oaky tomes and hints of candied orange peel.The Palate: rich dark chocolate, hints of plum, marzipan and caramelized pear. The Finish: gently spicy and lingering sweetness.



First Rounders  $20 – $60

Buffalo Trace 45% from $25.99. I am often asked where to start drinking by bourbon novices. This is my go to in that instance as it is just so dam good. The Nose: complex aromas of vanilla and molasses. The Palate: pleasantly sweet with brown sugar and a touch of spice. The Finish: toffee and a hint of menthol.

1792 Ridgemont Reserve Single Barrel Selection 47% from $38.99. This is a great way to move on to something a little more spicy, which by the way makes an awesome Manhattan! The Nose: apple fruit, caramel almost toffee apples. The Palate: delicate spices, cinnamon, vanilla rounding out with a distinct rye element. The Finish: soft yet spicy dark barrel spiced caramels.

High West Rendezvous Rye 46% from $51.99. Another excellent blend from the masters of the blend at High West. Two different aged ryes—one aged 6 years and a mash bill of 95% rye; the second a 16 year old rye at 80%. The Malt Advocate Magazine tasting notes say it all! The Nose: very spicy with cinnamon, mint and fennel. The Palate:sweet caramel, molasses, vanilla, macaroon, cocoa and candied fruit. The Finish: bold and warming rye spiciness.

Advanced Palate  $60 – $ 100

Jefferson’s Reserve Single Cask 45% from $65.00. At 12 years old this reserve single barrel has been bottled at the optimum sweet spot. The Nose: spice dominated with beautiful barrel char tones. The Palate: opulent with deep caramel, rich vanillas and honey. The Finish: very long and dark buttery fruits. This is a whisky to take time with for sure.

Masterson’s 10 Year Canadian Rye 45% from $64.00. This is my personal favorite 100% sipping rye. It is so full and generous on the palate: an absolute must for fans of rye. The Nose: wood spice, caramelized sugars, plush grain notes and this lovely almost mango tropical fruit. The Palate: texturally amazing citrus preserves, soft rye and ample spice. The Finish: rich and mellow soft rye spice.

James E. Pepper 1776 15 Year Old Bourbon 46% from $95.00. Finding availability of older bourbons has become something of a mini-nightmare. Hence I just had to include this sourced Kentucky bourbon. The Nose: Crème Brule, fruity jelly candy and sweet barrel spices. The Palate: soft and lush and nutmeg spiced. The Finish: warm soft toffee.

Connoisseurs $100 +

Whistle Pig’s The Boss Hog 12 Year Old 67% from $150.00. Another Canadian rye. This time a single cask expression aged in Vermont at Whistle Pig Farm. This is a must have for Whistle Pig and general rye fans alike. The Nose: concentrated rich sweet fruit pear and baked peach. The Palate: spicy oak, peppery buttered apple and plush rye grain notes. The Finish: almost everlasting spicy caraway seed rich cereal notes.

Elijah Craig 21 Year Old 45% from $175.00. Not many bourbons make it safely to 21 years old. The folks at Heaven Hills have done an amazing job nurturing this amazing bottle to full maturity. The Nose: soft vanilla and cream, delicate wood (for 21 years) and coconut cookies. The Palate: is beautifully balanced spicy and peppery, wood char and plush stone fruits. The Finish: butter and a touch of ash.

Summary: The higher end of the bourbon and rye market is notoriously short in supply. I could rave on about say “Pappy Van Winkle” or “Michter’s 25 Year Old Single Barrel” but those are just not practical for a holiday gift guide because my recommendation would leave you searching endlessly for something you are very unlikely to get. So I will leave the final section with just two offerings and wish you all a very very Happy Holiday.

Cheers, Stephen Winch


About Author

I moved here from UK in February 2011 leaving my job as a community bobby in Surrey. By the end of May that year I had joined the team at Astor Wines & Spirits turning my love of Whisky & Wine into work. My first whisky love is single malt, which started as a 18 year old when my local Pub landlord introduced me to Macallan 12. I am also extremely passionate about American whiskey which is an amazing category. I love travel and have white water rafted in New Zealand, Argentina & Canada.